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Regulations kept aged care at ‘minimum acceptable standards’


Providers need to find ways to encourage consumers to invest in their own care or else they rely on government funding that won’t keep pace, says CEO.

The regulations governing aged care have served to keep sector quality at the minimum acceptable standards, but the unfolding reforms mean providers will have to innovate in order to survive, a sector leader has said.

The controls on residential aged care places and prices resulted in little incentive for providers to improve their offerings above minimum safety standards, given consumers had little real choice between services, according to Gary Barnier, CEO of Opal Aged Care.

But as the sector was further reformed, aged care providers would need to invest in innovation and improved customer services in order to compete and survive, Mr Barnier told the Future of Aged Care conference in Sydney yesterday.

“Providers need to find ways to encourage consumers to invest in their own care or else they rely on government funding that won’t keep pace,” he said.

Providers that pulled back on quality due to government decisions would fail, he cautioned.

Opal had created additional premium wellness services and products that consumers could pay for, which it was hoped would help offset the recent ACFI cuts. “The outcome has been pretty mixed, to be honest,” he said. Australians were used to accepting the minimum acceptable standard and were struggling with the concept of having choice and paying for extras.

More broadly, there were poor perceptions of aged care products and services amongst consumers, he said.

“Residential care is the second biggest grudge purchase in your life after your funeral; people don’t understand it; they’re frightened of it. We haven’t done a great job of explaining it,” said Mr Barnier.

Similarly Catherine Daley, CEO of integratedliving, said her organisation’s experience with CDC was that there were a number of instances where family members refused to pay for clinical interventions for the client.

Challenges are an international experience: expert

Elsewhere, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said that care globally was struggling to deliver services as needs were increasing and resources were shrinking.

The key challenges facing the sectors in the UK and Australia were workforce, economic challenges, increasing levels of dementia, long-term conditions and comorbidities, and caring for diverse and disparate communities.

“We’re also seeing families starting to fragment, which is happening everywhere and is a real issue as traditionally families took up the caring role,” said Professor Green.

The opportunities for providers and policy makers lay in greater integrating of health and social care, more mixed and flexible business models, greater use of partnerships, and better health prevention programs to encourage people to age well, he said.

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2 Responses to Regulations kept aged care at ‘minimum acceptable standards’

  1. Dave September 1, 2016 at 12:45 am #

    So, are all providers tirelessly working everyday to provide the best possible care, or just doing the least they can to stay afloat in a sea of mediocrity?

    A little while back we were told nobody could afford to pay for RNs and ACFI cuts would send us to the wall, but now everyone has to start spending big on innovation (whatever that is)

    Maybe people are just struggling with confused messages from our sector or just having to pay extra for something that should be standard? Or perhaps the generation that fought for a just and egalitarian society doesn’t like having their noses rubbed in inequality right to very end?

    People aren’t frightened of aged care because we haven’t explained it well, they’re frightened because we haven’t done it well.

  2. Michael September 1, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    The problem for citizens is that they have been excluded from the debate and kept in the dark so have been unable to contribute. As is illustrated in this article providers have wandered off into a world of their own and then tried to market their ideas and their rationalisations. Unlike other countries there is no reliable verifiable information about standards of care or about staffing. There is marketing but no transparency.

    The community sees glowing market analysis and large profits as soon as there is additional funding – but no change in services. Community services should start within communities and work closely with the community and in consultation with their critics who more readily identify issues. In his former life Opal’s chairman has been a strong advocate for open government and participatory democracy. There is no sign of that in aged care.

    Markets function when they operate within informed and responsible communities and are constrained by customers who know what they want and insist on getting it. We need to know much more about aged care before we throw more money at it.

    Aboriginal health failed when we ignored the community and threw money at it. The same has happened in aged care.

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